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Report issued on fatal Christmas Eve fire in Bremerton
Bremerton Fire Marshal Mike Six has released a report on the Madrona Estates apartment fire that took the life of Dora M. Crockett, 78.
The report, which was released this past Friday, concludes that the fire likely started inside Crockett's unit 112B as a result of a space heater plug-in that had come partially loose at the wall outlet it was drawing power from. Described as a High Resistance Connection (or HRC, for short), this type of loose connection can generate extreme heat in a small space, the prongs of a plug for instance, that can lead to a fire.
The loose connection in this case was somewhat hidden between a refrigerator and a sofa and "the situation my have been developing over a long period of the time," according to the report.
The report notes that the space heater, which sat between a chair and a sofa, was placed atop an aluminum tray "which created a very clean protected area on the floor." But, a nearby couch and several neatly folded blankets insulated the heat build-up inside the cord leading from the wall to the heater and prevented that heat from dissipating.
Investigators also considered other possible factors as causes of the fire. Those included smoking, described as quite rare and ruled out in this case, candles and cooking.
"A large number of candles were found in the apartment during the investigation, however the burn patterns around the sofa and end table did not display characteristics of a fire from these areas … Also if the cause was a candle or any other cause the damage to the electrical outlet next to the sofa would be only surface damage and not the extensive inside-out type damage shown," the report states.
The report notes that the kitchen was closely scrutinized because cooking fires are the number one cause of fires. The oven, though, was in the "off" position and a plugged in toaster was not engaged.
Investigators believe the unit where the fire began had working smoke detectors, as did the rest of the 40-unit apartment complex. Several neighbors, including Resident Manager Shannon Bennett, heard alarms and attempted to clear out apartments. Rick Lott, who lived just above Crockett, also tried to evacuate residents and told investigators he reached Crockett's apartment and "saw just a glow that looked like it was on the couch and very dark black smoke rolling and pouring out of the door and window cracks."
Nearby resident Stephen Gay made it downstairs and grabbed a fire extinguisher. He said Crockett's door was locked so he sprayed the extinguisher through a busted out window. After the door had been kicked in, Gay attempted to enter the unit and took a couple of steps inside, but "it was so intense he couldn't go in," the report states.
"He saw a little fire on the couch and shortly after that the whole couch was on fire; the whole couch and chair, he stated. He could not see if she was not in her bed or in a chair," the report states.
Crockett's body was later found on the ground in the bathroom doorway and an autopsy determined that she died of extensive smoke inhalation.